Oct 27, 2013 - 11:45 am - Arizona State Sun Devils
Tempe, AZ - Through seven games in 2013, ASU 5-2 (3-1) sits atop the Pac-12 South.
With the toughest part of the schedule behind them, the Devils feel confident going into their final five conference games. However, the competition is tough: Washington St., Utah, Oregon St., UCLA and Arizona.
We are at what is hopefully the perfect half-way mark of 2013. Because to play seven more games, the Devils will have to win the PAC-12 South title which would ensure a 13th game in the PAC-12 Championship. Then win or lose, game #14 will come in the form of a Bowl game.
* * *
Looking back a year ago, one thing can't be overstated about 2012. In one year, new Head Coach Todd Graham's staff and team who "bought in" established a new identity for Sun Devil Football, finishing 8-5 including three straight Wins and ASU's victory in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
There's truth in the old cliche, "To know where you're going, you have to know from where you came."
Let's look back at key developments from the first seven games of 2012, when the Sun Devils sat at exactly the same record that they are at now, 5-2 (3-1).
Game #1, Aug. 30, 2012 - ASU vs. NAU: W, 63-6
Marion Grice led all rushers with 107 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns
The Sun Devils rushed for a combined 305 yards on 51 attempts (5.98 per attempt)
Taylor Kelly made his first career start going 15-19 for 247 yards and one touchdown.
Kelly also rushed six times for 43 yards.
Brandon Magee made two tackles and one interception, which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown. It was his first and only career pick six.
ASU allowed 237 total yards (88 rushing, 149 passing)
Game #2, Sept. 8, 2012 - ASU vs. Illinois: W, 45-14
#52 Carl Bradford pulls Illinois QB's Jersey
The Sun Devils forced three interceptions, two from linebacker Carlos Mendoza.
A shoulder injury would end Mendoza’s season against the Illini
QB Michael Eubank threw five passes completing all of them for 69 yards and tossing two touchdowns.
Eubank also ran seven times for 51 yards and another score.
TE Chris Coyle hauled in 10 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
ASU sacked Illinois six times for -35 yards.
ASU racked up 510 total yards of offense, (192 rush, 318 pass)
Game #3, Sept. 15, 2012 - ASU at Missouri: L, 20-24
Taylor Kelly was 14 for 23 passing for 178 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Kelly had a team-high 15 rushes for 59 yards.
The Sun Devils were held to 113 yards rushing, their second lowest total of the season.
LB Brandon Magee recorded his second interception in three games.
Magee led all Sun Devils with 12 total tackles.
ASU controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 34:51 to Missouri’s 25:09
The Sun Devils were lights-out on third down, allowing Missouri to convert only twice in 12 attempts.
Game #4, Sept. 22, 2012 - ASU vs. Utah: W, 37-7
Freshman RB, #8 D.J. Foster
Utah’s two-time 1,000 yard rusher, John White, was shut down by ASU’s defense, gaining only 18 net yards on 14 carries.
ASU’s defense allowed only 129 yards of total offense.
The defense only allowed two drives of more than 26 yards.
21 of ASU’s 37 points came in the first quarter.
QB Taylor Kelly threw 326 yards on 19 completions as well as three touchdowns and one interception.
RB D.J. Foster rushed a team-high seven times and 70 yards as well as catching one pass for 26 yards.
LB Brandon Magee had a game-high 10 tackles as well as a forced fumble that he recovered.
Game #5, Sept. 29, 2012 - ASU at Cal: W, 27-17
ASU sacked Cal QB Zach Maynard seven times, tied for the most in a game all-season
DT Will Sutton and DE Junior Onyeali combined for five of the seven sacks.
The Sun Devil offense ran a whopping 94 offensive plays for 409 yards.
Of those 94 plays, ASU ran the ball 48 times (51%) but only gained 116 yards (2.4 yards per rush) and didn’t score a rushing touchdown.
K Alex Garoutte had a rough day going 2 for 5 on field goals, one of which was blocked.
ASU fumbled the ball three times but didn’t lose any of them.
WR Kevin Ozier caught three passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
Game #6, Oct. 11, 2012 - ASU at Colorado: W, 51-17
The Sun Devils put on their second-best offensive performance of the year with 593 yards of total offense (261 rush, 332 pass)
Taylor Kelly passed for 308 yards on 20-28 passing and tossed five touchdowns.
RB Marion Grice did most of his damage as a receiver, catching five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
RB Cameron Marshall rumbled for 98 yards on 13 carries.
RB D.J. Foster led the team with 132 all-purpose yards (61 rush, 71 receiving)
LB Brandon Magee made a game-high nine solo tackles as well as sacking Colorado QB Jordan Webb twice
DT Will Sutton also chipped in two sacks.
Game #7, Oct 18, 2012 - ASU vs. No. 2 Oregon: L, 21-43
Sun Devil #10 Keelan Johnson jumping to block an Oregon Field goal
ASU scored on its very first offensive play, a 28-yard strike from QB Taylor Kelly to WR Kevin Ozier.
ASU suffered demoralizing injuries to DT Will Sutton and DE Junior Onyeali in the first quarter.
The Sun Devil defense was gashed for a season-high 406 rushing yards.
The Sun Devil defense gave up touchdown runs of 71 and 86 yards.
QB Taylor Kelly was 10 of 18 passing for 93 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times.
QB Michael Eubank didn’t fare much better, going 10 for 19 passing for 123 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
S Alden Darby led ASU in tackles with 12.
The Sun Devils outscored Oregon 14-0 in the second half but it was too little, too late by then.
* * *
There are certainly some similarities and differences between what ASU did in the first half of 2012 and what we have seen in 2013.
But the question is, will the 2013 Sun Devils push that rock further up the hill with their remaining schedule?
Nov 11, 2012 - 07:35 pm - By Jeff Alba for DieHardDevil.comNot many people other than the players and coaches inside the visiting Sun Devil locker room gave ASU a chance to beat USC on Saturday. In what was a microcosom of the 2012 football season so far for the Sun Devils, the team started strong, played well and provided hope in the first half, only to fall apart and disappoint in the second half falling to USC 38-17. The Sun Devils fell to USC 38-17 on Saturday at the LA Coliseum.The Sun Devil defense did their part throughout the game to give ASU a chance by forcing five turnovers and giving the offense plenty of opportunities to put points on the board. Three of the turnovers were spectacular interceptions by Alden Darby, Chris Young and Carl Bradford. However, most of those opportunities were squandered as the Sun Devil offense had season lows in both yards gained and points scored. After a promising start in the first half, ASU finished the game with only 250 yards of total offense. That’s not going to get it done against most teams, let alone against USC at the Coliseum.On the other sideline, the USC offense pulled it together after halftime and scored 24 consecutive points in the second half. These were not only points scored, but they were long drives that ate up the clock and kept the ASU defense on the field. Time of possession for the game was 36:19 for USC (61%) and 23:41 for ASU (39%). With that kind of imbalance on possession, any defense will get worn down over time when a team like the Trojans just keep coming at you. And that's what happened to the Sun Devils in the second half. Another interesting note, although the end result was drastically different, both quarterbacks had 20 completions on 33 attempts.For the most part, Taylor Kelly spent Saturday afternoon running for his life trying to create opportunities down the field and forced a few passes he shouldn’t have thrown. The rushing game didn’t do much to relieve any of that pressure, only gaining 71 yards on the ground. Obviously, the offensive line is involved in that equation also. With two games left in the season and a very winnable game next Saturday at home against Washington State, Coach Graham and Mike Norvell need to take a hard look at the offensive game plan and make the necessary and effective adjustments before and during the game. Sun Devil fans are restless after four consecutive losses, and at this point, two wins to finish the season and a decent bowl game would be considered a success in 2012.
Nov 09, 2012 - 05:04 pm - By James Romo for DieHardDevil.com
ASU heads to the Land of Troy this weekend for its second consecutive road game and a match up with a traditional west coast rival. If you took a poll of ASU fans, USC is probably the second most hated opponent on the Sun Devils schedule every year. It could be their recent success, arrogance, or the fact that the ASU roster is typically loaded with players from Southern California. But make no mistake about it, these teams are chomping at the bit to get after one another on the field. ASU has dropped three straight games, and SC has uncharacteristically surrendered huge offensive games in consecutive losses to Arizona and Oregon. Bad intentions will run rampant on Saturday, and big plays, big hits, and big statements will be made on the LA Coliseum turf.
USC will run the only true pro-style offense that ASU will face this season. The Trojans are armed with unquestionably the most gifted and explosive receiving core in the country with Marquise Lee, Robert Woods, and Nelson Agholor. Oh, and the guy throwing to them was the odds on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy coming into the season. QB Matt Barkley has thrown for 2,750 yards and 30 touchdowns with an average of 305.6 yards/game through nine games this season. Lee averages 142.9 yards receiving/game with a 14.6 yards/catch average on 1286 yards with 12 touchdown grabs. Woods averages 11.1 yards/game with an 11.1 yards/catch average on 656 yards and 10 touchdowns. In other words, tons of firepower on offense. After getting blistered against the OSU receivers last week, the ASU secondary will have more than their hands full this week against USC. Much of the Trojan passing attack is set up by the rushing of (Penn State transfer) Silas Redd who averages 5.4 yards/carry and does his part in both chewing up yardage and keeping opposing defenses honest. SC does a great job of using play-action passing to keep defenses off balance. So look for ASU to up the ante with blitz packages to disrupt timing between Barkley and his receivers. That will create a delicate balance while also spending a lot of time in zone coverages to limit single coverages on the SC receivers and to eliminate man-to-man mismatches on slot receivers and backfield personnel on wheel routes and short routes into the flats. Sounds like a lot to handle? It will be.
Head Coach Lane Kiffin has been forthright regarding his interior offensive line underperforming this season, as SC has had trouble keeping defenders out of their backfield. This plays into the hands of the ASU front seven who rank second in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. A healthy Will Sutton will command a double-team, and that should free up one-on-one mismatches for Carl Bradford and Chris Young on the edges. USC Tackles Matt Tuerk and Kevin Graf have been great in pass protection, so look for the battles on the edges between ASU's dynamic pass rush and the Trojan offensive line. Maintaining outside contain will be a must again this week with Redd being able to break off big runs if he gets the corner. Last week, the Devils had way too many individual missed assignments on defense that led to big plays. Discipline, solid tackling, and premium on limiting explosive plays are paramount if ASU wants to stay in this slug fest. For an Arizona State secondary who will be relying a ton on their front seven to create pressure, they will also have to do their part in disrupting timing routes with aggressive jamming of receivers at the line and disguising coverage shells.
On Defense, the Trojans operate out of a traditional 4-3 front and have speed to burn at every position. With that being said, they have had an extremely tough time slowing down well executed spread offenses. In the past two weeks alone, they have given up 588 and 730 yards respectively to Arizona and Oregon. The major difference between those teams and ASU is the production from their receiving core that the Devils just haven't been able to muster from their outside guys. It's a must for ASU to try to replicate the same tempo that Arizona and Oregon used to keep the Trojan defense both on their heels, and without time to substitute their preferred personnel in certain situations. In losses to both UCLA and OSU, it appeared that the Devils offense was able to move the ball with greater success when they went into a fast tempo mode. Crowd noise may limit the ability of QB Taylor Kelly to get plays called in a hurry at the line, but the quicker they can get plays off before allowing SC defenders to get set, the more of an advantage they will have. Look for ASU to exploit the flats and horizontal routes to spread the Trojan defense going east and west. The lack of north and south passing game to this point could potentially open up in the form of seam/post routes this week if they can use misdirection on the talented Trojan safeties. At 6-3 and 205, senior safety TJ McDonald is cut from the same cloth as former Trojan standout Taylor Mays. He's big, rangy, and brings the hammer to would be receivers over the middle. But he has also been caught out of position against zone read teams frequently while trying to read plays at their mesh point. Taylor Kelly will also have to do a good job of carrying out play fakes and making proper reads on defensive ends Wes Horton and Morgan Breslin.
There is no question that the last three Sun Devil opponents have been a considerable step up in talent from teams in the early part of the schedule. That talent, in combination with learning the ASU strengths, have resulted in successful game planning against what ASU had been so lethal with early on. Oregon, UCLA, and OSU have been able to shrink down the areas of the field where ASU has found its most success in the passing game. The underneath routes that Chris Coyle, DJ Foster, and Marion Grice (out of the backfield) roamed freely in have been all but shut down by linebackers getting deep in their drops and safeties being able to allow their corners to single-cover the ASU receivers and roam freely in the middle of the field. The only way to open that space back up is to keep linebackers tight to the line of scrimmage to stop the ASU run game. Heavy doses of Cameron Marshall between the tackles should keep WLB Hayes Pullard and SLB Dion Bailey out of the flat, or at the very least create a decided advantage for Chris Coyle and DJ Foster releasing into passing routes on play action.
Ultimately, the ASU outside receivers are going to have to show up and make plays down field. The SC corners have shown to be very beatable in man coverage, and forcing safeties to offer help over the top will allow for ASU to take advantage of what they do best. Kelly will be able to extend plays and find open receivers underneath if all goes as planned. I foresee ASU taking some early shots down field, if for no other reason than to extend the field vertically to give the SC defense and coaching staff something to think about.
Click Here to view the entire Photo Gallery from the Sun Devil victory over USC last year
The circus that was the ASU kicking game last season has extended its stay through the 2012 season. If whoever gets the nod to attempt field goals this week can shake their nerves in a hostile Coliseum environment, it will only help give the Devils a much needed opportunity to win. Josh Hubner did a great job of pinning OSU deep in its own territory last week, but Arizona State was unable to capitalize on multiple short field possessions. The cover teams are going to have to improve over last week as well with USC capable of big plays in their return game. It's going to be a tough battle to the final whistle. Much of the outcome is going to revolve around where the psyche of each team is after both teams have dropped multiple consecutive games. I don't believe either team has thrown in the towel on their respective seasons, but momentum has a way of being an even bigger factor for, and against, teams that are coming off of disappointing losses. Once again, these games against talented opponents are winnable. Limiting the big plays, discipline, being fundamentally sound, near flawless execution, and exceeding their opponents intensity level are a must for the Devils to come away with win in LA…All those things and making sure that the Southern Cal footballs are properly inflated.
Sep 27, 2011 - 07:08 pm - By Juan Roque for DieHardDevil.com
Twelve years is a very long time. Twelve years ago Bill Clinton was still the President. Twelve years ago no one knew what an iPhone, Blackberry or Android was. Twelve years ago Windows98 was the technology that was used on computers and America Online was how most people surfed the internet. That was the last time ASU had beaten the University of Southern California…November 1999. Over the next eleven seasons, the Sun Devils just couldn’t defeat the Trojans although in 2009 and 2010 they came very close. If there was ever a time that this hex could be broken it was on Saturday. USC is no longer the titan of the new Pac-12 conference. That title has been taken by Oregon for the time being. USC no longer has the mystique or aura to them like they did under the Pete Carroll regime. After a coaching change, scandal, probation and scholarship reductions the men of Troy have been relegated to mortal status. Arizona State had every reason to want revenge after two close losses to the Trojans the past two seasons which the Sun Devils should have won, and coming off a tough loss at Illinois. The stage was set.
ASU took the field in their new all maroon look and from the first series made it clear to the visiting team that they were not going to allow history to repeat itself. After Brock Osweiler evaded the Trojan rush and ran for a first down the Sun Devils struck first. On the very next play, Cameron Marshall lit up the stadium as he ran around the left side of the line and sprinted into the end zone after breaking a tackle for an early 7-0 lead. The defense finally turned up the heat and held the Trojans to three field goals in the first half. Osweiler again showed why he is a rising star in the conference by completing two touchdown passes and leading ASU to a 21-9 halftime lead. USC, not to be deterred, stormed the field in the third quarter and managed to wrestle the lead away from the feisty Sun Devils after a Marc Tyler scoring run from 10 yards. This gave USC a 22-21 advantage with 6:41 left in the third quarter. We had watched this scene play out before in past years.
But 2011 was different. That was as close as USC would come to victory. On a wild Tempe night where a crazy wind storm struck the stadium in the first quarter bringing dust, rain and a large amount of trash on the field, the Sun Devils would flip the script. The desert storm served as an ominous sign for USC as it happened during one of their offensive drives. As the brown, dusty rain fell it was as if the hex was being reversed by the Arizona State Gods. It stained USC and baptized Arizona State.
This new mojo became evident when USC took the lead. The Sun Devils, rather than panic, break down and make mistakes that would cost them, played with an inspiration and attitude that will be remembered for quite some time and earned a huge victory. USC managed to move the ball into ASU territory twice but came up short due to turnovers. Matt Barkley fumbled on a sack that was recovered by Bo Moos and Marc Tyler fumbled when hit by Colin Parker that was recovered by Deveron Carr. Shelly Lyons then iced the game late in the fourth quarter by intercepting Barkley and scoring his first ASU touchdown. Final score ASU 43 USC 22. After twelve seasons it was sweet revenge for the Sun Devils.
Vontaze Burfict incercepts USC's #7, Matt Barkley in the 2nd Quarter
Grading the Game
Brock Osweiler continues to impress. Every week he is improving and it shows in his performance. Oz went 26-32 for 232 yards and two touchdowns. He ran the ball with authority when it mattered and kept drives alive. The best stat of all….NO TURNOVERS.
This unit had a much better outing after having several drops last week. Mike Willie had his best game of 2011 catching four passes for 44 yards and provided some quality downfield blocking. Gerell Robinson had a big drop which he answered with a huge catch in the second quarter. G-Rob finished the day with three catches for 32 yards and scored a touchdown. Aaron Pflugrad was smothered by the USC defense but still managed to grab four passes for 39 yards. A.J. Pickens only caught one pass but it was a huge 21 yard gain.
Cameron Marshall finally had his breakout performance. Marshall carried 25 times and gained 142 yards. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored on the first play of the game. Still not 100% healthy, the bruising Marshall was a force that was instrumental in ASU’s win. Kyle Middlebrooks chipped in with two carries for nine yards. After three games in which ASU’s run game was a non factor it showed up huge Saturday. Catching the ball out of the backfield was big for this group. Jamal Miles caught nine passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Brock threw 26 of 32, 232 yards, 2 Touchdowns and No Pics. He brought his Offensive Line with him to the press conference table following the game.
Finally the unit was able to do both; pass block and run block. The maligned group made a statement Saturday in controlling the Trojan front seven. After allowing six sacks the week before, they only gave up one sack on a blitz. The unit was penalized once on Mike Marcisz’s illegal block penalty. Tackle play was much better as Dan Knapp and Evan Finkenberg kept the quick USC ends off Osweiler. The interior line held up much better which allowed Osweiler to see the field and not have to vacate the pocket. They were finishing blocks in the running game which opened the door for Marshall to have his best game to date.
Davon Coleman continues to impress while filling in for the injured Junior Onyeali. Coleman again was very active on the front line with five tackles. Bo Moos had a huge game by sacking Matt Barkley then recovering a Barkley fumble later in the game which stalled a possible touchdown drive. Will Sutton had three tackles as did Corey Adams. Greg Smith came off the bench and had a sack as well as forced fumble of Barkley. This unit gets better each week. Stopping the run is still a concern as Marc Tyler ran for 152 yards but they came up with huge plays when it mattered.
When a running back gets 152 yards it’s not a good thing but this unit, like their defensive line brothers, made huge plays when the game was on the line. Vontaze Burfict intercepted Barkley which stopped a possible Trojan touchdown in the second quarter and had five tackles. Colin Parker is emerging as ASU’s most productive linebacker by having another strong performance. Parker had seven tackles and forced a fumble. Shelly Lyons came up huge for ASU in the fourth quarter intercepting a Barkley pass and returning it 41 yards for the game clinching touchdown.
Osahon Irabor grew up Saturday. He made some big hits in the second half and covered very well to go with his five tackles. Deveron Carr also had his best game and made some big hits in a six tackle one pass breakup effort. Eddie Elder was a warrior coming off an injury last week to play and make four tackles. Clint Floyd led ASU with eight tackles. The unit had the unenviable task of stopping USC star Robert Woods and while he had 8 catches for 132 yards he was kept out of the end zone.
No missed PATs but coverage units need to improve is this team is to compete for a Pac-12 championship. Josh Hubner has been mostly effective when called upon averaging 49 yards per kick. For the most part, Alex Garoutte has been sufficient on kickoffs, but had one sail out of bounds for a penalty.
Team Captain, Omar Bolden celebrates the pivotal Victory for ASU
Sep 24, 2011 - 03:57 pm - By Juan Roque for DieHardDevil.com
This Saturday, ASU will return to the friendly surroundings of Sun Devil Stadium to face the Trojans of USC in its first Pac-12 conference game of the season. ASU is looking to rebound from a heart breaking loss last week at Illinois where they had every opportunity to win but simply were not able to execute when it mattered most. USC, now ranked 23rd in the AP Poll, wants to keep rolling after its 3-0 start. Both teams are considered by football insiders to be the best two in the newly formed Pacific 12 Conference South Division with many giving USC a slight edge. While no longer the team laced with NFL first round picks like in previous years, the Trojans still have plenty of fire power and will provide a formidable challenge.
This is without question the most important game of the year for ASU for many reasons. They’re coming of a loss, they’re on a mission to compete for the conference title and they’re playing a team that has beaten them eleven years in a row. After a disappointing loss to what many felt was a beatable Illinois team, ASU has their biggest conference nemesis at home. For the Sun Devils, the success or failure of the 2011 season could rest on the shoulders of this game. The timing could not be worse as the injury bug keeps biting the defense. Junior Onyeali, the best defensive line player ASU has, will not play and is out for a minimum of six weeks with a knee injury. Safety Eddie Elder, who had a much improved outing against Illinois is coming off a concussion. However, he has been cleared for Saturday. The defense will need to regroup and reload quickly if they are to stop a highly effective Trojan offense. After losing a game they should have won last week, the pressure is on the team and Coach Dennis Erickson to right the ship. A win would propel the Sun Devils back to relevance in the both the conference and national scene, but a loss could potentially derail what was supposed to be a banner season.
The Trojans under Lane Kiffin are in transition from the glory years under Pete Carroll that ended in scandal. They are no longer the invincible force that dominated the Pacific 10 conference for nearly a decade. Even with all the issues, vacated wins and returned awards, it can’t be denied that USC was the class of the conference during those years. They had a lock on all recruiting and had their pick of the top players from everywhere in the country including Arizona where the Trojans took players like Everson Griffen and Devon Kennard. That’s changed lately. With the emergence of Oregon and their run the past three years and with the Reggie Bush debacle, USC finds itself on probation and no longer the class of the conference. Head Coach Lane Kiffin is looking to change all of that and bring the glory back to the storied program. His Trojans are off to a good start in 2011 and are looking to play the role of spoiler since their probationary status prevents them from officially competing for the Pac-12 South title. They have the mental advantage that comes with an eleven game streak. The last two games between SC & Arizona State were very close, both SC secured both wins in 2009 and 2010. This season the Trojans got off to a rocky start squeaking by Minnesota and Utah but found its swagger last week and cruised to a 38-17 win against a quality Syracuse team.
Meet the Trojan Offense
USC has not changed anything from the Pete Carroll days on offense. They run a Pro Style Offense and still base their attack around the running game. They have speed at the skill positions and have an athletic offensive line. Their best player on offense is junior quarterback Matt Barkley. Barkley, a starter since his freshman year, is much improved from his first two years at the helm. He picked Syracuse apart last week completing 26 of 39 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns which tied a USC record. Barkley is a smart player with the football and makes sound decisions. He has only been intercepted once so far this season and has thrown for 892 yards in three games. What has improved from his first two years in the program is his confidence. He is the leader of the unit now and it shows in how he performs. This could possibly be his last season at USC if he continues to improve and heads to the NFL.
USC’s skill positions are a combination of size and speed. Tailbacks Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal are a deadly one two punch for the Trojans. Tyler uses his 230 pounds to punish opposing defenders and McNeal is a speedster who averages 8.8 yards per carry. Fullback/Tight End Rhett Ellison is a stud player who can do it all: block, catch and run the ball. The 6’5” 250 pound senior has emerged as a multiple threat for the Trojans. Last week against Syracuse he caught five passes and scored a touchdown. He will be more involved in the offense as the season progresses. Sophomore receiver Robert Woods is the most dangerous player USC has at the skill positions. USC creates mismatches in the opposing defense by moving Woods around from the perimeter to the inside slot. Woods uses his 6’1” frame to out jump smaller defenders and come down with the football.
USC’s offensive line is not big like Illinois but they are far more athletic. Junior tackle Matt Kalil is an All American candidate and could also compete for the Outland Trophy. His brother is Ryan Kalil who is an All Pro center with the Carolina Panthers. Many feel Matt is better. One glaring weakness in the Trojan offensive line is they are likely to start true freshman Marcus Martin alongside Kalil. Martin is big enough at 6’3” 340 pounds but struggled last week against the quick Syracuse defensive tackles. Center Khaled Holmes is an established veteran who is another potential honors candidate.
How ASU matches up
This game is going to test the ASU defense right from the opening drive. The Sun Devils will need to account for Woods, Ellison, Tyler and Barkley. These four players cannot get into a rhythm if ASU is to win this game. Defensive linemen need to attack the left side of the line where the true freshman is lining up and get pressure on Barkley. Now that it’s certain Junior Onyeali is out, Davon Coleman will need to pick up where he left off last week and have a great game. Stopping the running game will also be a big task for the ASU front seven. Colin Parker, Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons will need to control Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeil. They will also need to account for Rhett Ellison coming out of the backfield or lining up at tight end. In the secondary it’s a priority to identify where Woods is lining up. He has to be accounted for every snap because the Trojans will take a shot at a long pass on first down. This is a game where the defense will have to not only play smart but aggressive.
Key Matchup: ASU secondary vs. Robert Woods
Meet the Trojan defense
On defense USC lines up in a 4-3 under defense that was made famous by Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay. The “Tampa Two Defense” relies on its defensive line to get pressure on the quarterback so that they are able to play man to man in the secondary and keep their linebackers in position to either blitz or drop into coverage. USC has speed and size on its defensive line and they do a great job getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Junior defensive end Nick Perry is their most dangerous player. Perry is fast on the edge and has a great burst off the line. He does a great job with his body position and pursues to the whistle. On the season Perry has two sacks, twelve tackles and has batted down a pass. DaJohn Harris is also an active player at the defensive tackle position and has recorded nine tackles and a sack so far this season.
USC’s linebackers are all athletic, fast and aggressive. Middle linebacker Chris Galippo is another in a long tradition of outstanding USC defenders. The senior defender is not the best athlete on the field but he is smart and is rarely out of position. He is constantly around the football and has recorded 18 tackles and one and a half sacks so far in 2011. Weak side linebacker Hayes Pollard is a player who is exciting to watch and strong side linebacker Dion Bailey is also an excellent defender. Pollard is the Trojans’ leading tackler with 23 stops this season and has also recorded a sack. Bailey has 16 tackles and a sack. This unit is possibly the best linebacker unit in the conference.
In the secondary the Trojans have good athletes who can cover and tackle. Sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey has been mentioned as an All Pac-12 player by many pre-season publications. Robey covers well and has broken up two passes in 2011 along with his 13 tackles. Junior safety T.J. McDonald is a pre-season All American and is their best player in the defensive backfield. He is fast and provides great support for his cornerbacks. Sophomore cornerback Torin Harris is the most active Trojan pass defender having broken up two passes with one interception.
How ASU matches up
This USC defense will provide a significant challenge to the ASU offense. After last week’s debacle in which the offensive line gave up six sacks of ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler, this week the unit must shine if the Sun Devils are to be successful. The offensive line will need to keep Nick Perry and company off of Osweiler so that he can go through his progressions during pass plays. They have to be able to keep the pocket stout inside, not allow the Trojans’ 300 pound interior linemen to collapse it and take shots at Osweiler. Garth Gerhart will need to be able to identify blitz and adjust the protections so that Osweiler is not hit like he was last week. The receivers will need to be disciplined and focused this week in running their routes and catching the ball. The Trojans are stingy on defense and ASU must take what’s given to them. With the speed they have on defense USC plays man to man with safety support which can be advantageous for the Sun Devils given the speed they have at receiver. ASU will need to exploit possible mismatches in multiple receiver sets and get the ball to its best players like Aaron Pflugrad and Gerell Robinson. Brock Osweiler will need to identify this and deliver the football. The running game will be important this week in keeping the Trojan linebackers “in the box” and not dropping into coverage. Cameron Marshall will need to have a big game if ASU is to win. Again, the offensive line is crucial for this to happen. They must maintain their blocks and allow Cameron Marchall or other ASU running backs to find a seam and get the tough yards through the middle of the USC defense.
Key Matchup: ASU receivers vs. USC defensive backs
Rebounding from a tough loss is not easy to do. For ASU the season hangs in the balance Saturday. USC is beatable but they will not make it easy for the Sun Devils. Twelve years is a long time and that in itself is motivation enough to come out with an attitude and flip the script on the Trojans. ASU will move forward from the errors of last week and play its best game of the year. The streak ends at twelve.
ASU 35 USC 27
Sep 19, 2011 - 11:00 pm - By Chris Morris for DieHardDevil.com
Sun Devil fans might feel nostalgic for the success of the 1996 season. Perhaps they should feel a touch of déjà vu as well.
The ‘96 Devils were a veteran squad, coming off a strong finish to a six-win season. They entered the year generating buzz and hoping to snap a bowl drought.
If fifth-year head coach Bruce Snyder’s team wanted to prove itself against college football’s best, the opportunity came on September 21, 1996, when the top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers came to Tempe.
Nebraska wasn’t just any No. 1 team-- they had won 26 straight games and 37 straight in the regular season. Earlier that year, right there in Sun Devil Stadium, the Cornhuskers destroyed the second-ranked Florida Gators 62-24 to win their second consecutive National Championship.
The Huskers were coming off a 1995 season so dominant that only one team finished within three touchdowns. ASU got a first-hand look at the Nebraska steamroller, when they were blown out 77-28 in Lincoln.
The Sun Devil faithful, however, were not intimidated. A capacity crowd came out Saturday, September 26, for what was sure to be a special night at Sun Devil Stadium. It was, after all, Frank Kush night and at halftime the field would be re-named after the Arizona State coaching legend.
The team itself was also bringing some electricity to the evening. After edging Washington and blowing out North Texas, ASU found itself ranked No. 17 in the nation. They had earned the right to look up into the stands and see a sea of maroon and gold washing out the spattering of Nebraska red.
The Sun Devils elected to receive, and they promptly rewarded their raucous supporters for their faith. Senior quarterback Jake Plummer led the Devils down field and connected with Keith Poole for a 25-yard touchdown pass, the only touchdown in a classic game. The Devils jumped ahead 7-0.
The crowd at Sun Devil stadium stood proud but cautious. Their team had taken the fight to Nebraska and delivered the first blow. But what did it actually mean? Florida had scored on the game’s opening possession against the Cornhuskers earlier that year in the Fiesta Bowl and still lost by 38.
The offense had set the tone, now it was up to the Sun Devil defense to keep things rolling. After surrendering the most points in the Pac-10 conference in 1995, including 77 to the Cornhuskers, the Sun Devil D had a chip on its shoulder. And they played like it.
After penalties backed Nebraska up to their own 5, the Sun Devil defensive line broke through Nebraska’s heavies, forcing a bad option pitch from quarterback Scott Frost to tailback Ahman Green. The Defense fought for the ball through the sideline of the end zone causing a safety, upping the Devils advantage to 9-0.
The energy flowing through the 73,000-plus in the stadium was electric, but even the most optimistic die-hard had to admit that a 9-point lead, less than five minutes in, was far from safe. Nebraska averaged 52 points a game a year ago and topped that number in its first game of ’96.
The Huskers responded. Mike Minter intercepted Plummer to end ASU’s ensuing drive. Frost drove Nebraska 74 yards downfield to the Sun Devils’ 5-yard line. Still it seamed Nebraska was caught off guard by the pressure & force of the Sun Devil Defense. Another errant pitch attempt was recovered by ASU linebacker Scott Von der Ahe, and the Devils finished the first quarter with their 9-0 advantage intact.
In their previous matchup with Nebraska, the Sun Devils trailed by 28 after one. Now the boisterous crowd was riding the high of a 37-point swing. Gold pom-poms blotted out the pockets of red in the stands, and the team continued to feed on the enthusiasm of their 12th Man.
After a kicker, Robert NYC, connected on a 27-yard field goal, which made the game 12-0, ASU notched its second safety when linebacker #42, Pat Tillman tripped up Frost in the end zone. Nycz added another field goal, giving ASU a 17-0 lead at the half.
17 points was far from insurmountable for a team that dropped 63 points in a half on ASU last year, but the Sun Devils weren’t just leading Nebraska, they were dominating them. Arizona State had out-gained the best team in the country by 217 yards in the first half and forced them into three punts, two safeties and a fumble.
Sun Devil Nation could officially begin to dream.
Given a 17-point lead, the Sun Devil defense continued to dig in and prove itself. Nebraska got the ball to start the half, and they were quickly sent three and out. The defense continue to set the tone in the Stadium after a halftime of Nebraska Coach Osborne’s strategy adjustments.
Jake Plummer made history in the third quarter when he claimed the school record for career passing yardage, but the second half would belong to the Sun Devil D. They scored another 2 when Derrick Rodgers sacked Frost in the end zone for the Sun Devils’ third safety of the night.
The final blow came when the Devils forced another Nebraska fumble and Tillman jumped on the ball at the ASU 4 in the final minutes. One year after surrendering 77 points to the Cornhuskers, the Sun Devil defense was able to deliver a shut out to a team that scored in all but one of its last 283 games.
As the final seconds ticked away, the pandemonium that had been building since before kickoff finally burst. Fans stormed the newly-christened Frank Kush Field. They tore down the goal posts and took them with them when they left.
Just as the team had made a statement that night, justifying the devotion of diehard fans, Sun Devil Nation itself made a statement. Pride flowed through the streets that night throughout the area around Sun Devil Stadium and on Mill Avenue. Tempe was officially Sun Devil Territory.
The Devils were 3-0 for the first time since 1982. That streak would continued through 9 more games all the way to the Rose Bowl where ASU missed out on its own National Championship when Ohio State scored in the final seconds in Pasadena.
The effects of the turnaround that began with Nebraska were felt far beyond the 1996 season. The 1997 Rose Bowl berth not only snapped a string of nine-straight seasons without a bowl game, it began a string of nine bowls in the next 12 years.
In fact, hope from that stunning night still resonates with Devils everywhere in 2011. ASU again finds itself an experienced team, coming off a six-win season and generating a buzz. Coach Dennis Erickson enters his fifth season looking to snap a three-year bowl drought.
On September 24th, 15-years after the Nebraska victory, ASU hosts USC. Although the Trojans may still be reeling from their scandal and sanctions, they have beaten the Sun Devils in the last 11 match-ups. An ASU victory that night means a lot of things, but most importantly, it would continue to prove to the fans that Arizona State’s football program is in fact, different than years past. It would again secure it’s reputation as an elite team in the new PAC12 and earn it’s national attention.
15 years ago, Sun Devil Stadium was at capacity. The players felt it and gave the fans their absolute best. Where will you be Saturday night?